An Exit Interview With Warner Music Group Chairman Edgar Bronfman Jr.
Today is a big day for Edgar Bronfman Jr. — his last as chairman of Warner Music Group.
A fixture in the music industry since the mid-1990s, Bronfman led WMG during a period of profound tumult, navigating a rough transition from CD to the digital download, and grappling with a generation of younger consumers who don’t always want pay for digital music.
Onstage at D: Dive Into Media this afternoon, Bronfman reflected on the evolution of the music industry, Apple, and the fate of EMI, which is currently being pursued by Universal Music.
“It strikes me as hubris that Universal will buy EMI,” Bronfman told Peter Kafka of AllThingsD. “What it will do is create a super-major that will have far too much power. … I think when Universal goes up over 40 percent market share, I don’t see how reasonable regulators can countenance. It will impact not just labels, but artists and cultural diversity. … Warner is going to fight this tooth and nail, and I hope others will join us.”
As with today’s Neil Young session, the perceived obsolescence of the recording industry was a topic of conversation and, as you might imagine, Bronfman feels labels remain a necessity.
“Commercial success still hasn’t come to an artist that isn’t signed to a record label, he said. “There are very few artists that can succeed without the help of a record label. The role of the record label is still required, it’s still necessary.”
And not just for musicians. Consumers need labels, as well.
“I really do think consumers are busy, and trying to sort through millions and millions of artists to find the ones that they might like just requires far too much work. That’s where the labels come in.”
A few other remarks worth noting …
Mobile is coming. It’s still not really there. It’s on the iPhone because Apple has a content strategy, but it’s not really there on other devices. … I think the mobile platform is a massive opportunity for music. … Think about it. The iPod made music mobile, but today, how many devices do you need to walk around with? You want it on just one. And inevitably that’s going to be the phone.
On Google Music:
Google Music is an oxymoron.
Any time you can give consumers more of what they want, it’s a good thing. Unbundling the album is a good thing. In the case of music — because it is content that you can slice into songs — doing that is of huge benefit to consumers.
On Apple and iTunes:
Apple from day one believed in music and content. That was the good news. The bad news is that they decided all songs where created equal, and I fought Steve on that. Ultimately, Apple got the better part of that deal. Ultimately, I wish we’d gotten more pricing flexibility.
We see Spotify as incrementally positive. It’s not slowing down music sales or downloads. We would all love to make more money from Spotify, but Spotify needs to make money, too. But artists should know that it is a real and growing revenue stream.